How do pet sitters take time off?

Can pet sitters go on vacations?

I’ve always had jobs that require me to work weekends and holidays.

My first job was at a dog boarding facility in the Twin Cities. Even if the office was closed to the public, we still had to be there to care of the dogs every day.

During my newspaper days, we also worked holidays because even on Christmas Day there was still a paper! Just another day for us news-folk.

And now that I own a pet sitting/dog running business I also get more requests from clients around the holidays.

Through my business, I also offer consulting to others who are interested in learning how to start a pet sitting business. Some common questions I receive include:

As a pet sitter, will I have to work weekends?

No.

As a pet sitter, you have the ability to set your own schedule. Sure, there will be more opportunities for work on the weekends, but that doesn’t mean you have to work weekends.

When I first started my business, I took pretty much every pet sitting job I was offered. This helped me build up more clients. As time went on, I added more and more regular dog walking appointments during the work week.

Out for a run with two springer spaniels

Because I was getting so busy with dog walking and some pet sitting from Monday through Friday, I eventually didn’t need to work weekends unless I wanted to. I decided to take at least a few weekends off every month, especially around certain holidays.

If I ever want to work on weekends or holidays, there is always the opportunity because there are always people requesting pet sitting during those times.

Basically you have to learn to say no, which can be difficult.

Do I have to work holidays?

No.

The same rules as above apply for holidays. You own the pet sitting business, so you set your own schedule. You decide which holidays you want to work.

To be fair to your customers, you should decide a few months in advance whether you will be available on certain holidays or not. This will give them time to make other arrangements. You can either post your availability on your web site or send out a notice to all your regular customers.

People are very understanding if you decide to take time off to spend with your own family on any holiday.

Can I take vacations?

Yes.

You can take as many vacations as you would like!

As with holidays, simply give your customers at least a month or two of advanced notice if you plan to take time off. This will give them some time to make arrangements for their pets while you are away.

I encourage all pet sitters and dog walkers to take at least two full weeks off every year. Everyone needs a break. It’s easy for pet sitters to get burned out from working long hours. If you take time off, your customers will miss you and appreciate you a bit more 🙂

What if I get sick?

Take a day or two off.

If I get sick, I simply contact my clients as soon as possible. I say that I’m sick and won’t be available for walking that day. People understand.

If a human child goes to an in-home daycare and the daycare provider happens to get sick at the last minute, parents make arrangements. That is life. It’s no different with dogs. People can survive a day without a dog walker!

With pet sitting, it’s a little trickier than dog walking because the owners are likely out of town.

In those cases, I do my best to care for the animals as I normally would. In an absolute emergency, I would make sure to contact the pets’ owners and be honest about the situation. People are understanding if you are honest.

Sometimes people have a family member, friend or neighbor who can take over with the pet sitting for that day. If needed, I can have my husband fill in for me with permission from the pets’ owners. The final option would be to contact another trusted pet sitter in the area, but only with permission from the pets’ owners.

What if there is a blizzard and I can’t get to my appointments?

I live in Fargo, N.D., and as you can imagine, I’ve had to do pet sitting in some pretty nasty winter storms.

Dog at door with three feet of snow

No matter where you live, there are natural disasters that could prevent you from getting to your scheduled pet sitting visits – a tornado, an earthquake, a tsunami or whatever it might be.

All you can do is try your best. As you think about how to start a pet sitting business, think about these potential scenarios ahead of time. If they occur, be honest with your customers. Stay in contact so they are aware of the situation.

Obviously if you know a storm is approaching, you can plan ahead a bit. Leave extra food and water for the animals. Try to keep the pets in an area of the house where accidents will be easy to clean up. Ask the pets’ owners if there are any trusted neighbors who could stop by in case you can’t make it back for a few days.

If it’s a realistic option, you could spend the night at your client’s house with the pets or you could bring the pets over to your house. These options do bring up extra safety and liability issues, however.

The main thing is to do your best, stay in contact with the pets’ owners and to keep your own safety in mind.

Do you own a pet sitting business? How do you schedule time off?

For more information, my ebook on how to start a pet sitting business is guaranteed to be the best resource available for getting started with your business!

14 thoughts on “How do pet sitters take time off?”

      1. I hired subcontractors to assist me when I would like time off. Some clients have been very receptive, others not so much. The only problem I tend to run into is clients who still want me to take care of their pets but are not sympathetic to me needing time off and they get upset and don’t want another person to care for their pets. I know everyone can’t be pleased but overall the subcontractors have been a lovely addition to the team.

  1. I have to say that taking time off is the biggest stress of being a dog walker for me. My clients have all been extremely understanding, but I still feel bad every time I do it. During the summer I volunteer at an event in another state that could keep me gone for up two months! So far I have had to limit the time I work for the event and I always wish I could do more (even though I really do miss all of my doggie clients). This year, however, I’ve started networking with local dog walkers and am developing a trusted networking of people that I will feel confident referring my clients to if I decide to work the entire event. I highly recommend attempting to reach out to form a network with other local independent walkers through meetups or other types of networking groups (create them if they don’t exist!).

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yes. That is good advice. I think sometimes pet sitters are a little hesitant to reach out to each other because of competition, but it’s nice to have options for referrals. I love recommending the other pet sitters I know and trust.

  3. Actually, if you’re a dog walker you may be able to take weekends off, but not if you’re a pet sitter. If you accepted only those clients who were going away on short weekday business trips you might be able to get two or three lined up per week – if you were lucky. As a pet sitter you will have clients going away for a week, two weeks, even a month at a time. How would you tell them they needed to call someone else just to cover the weekends? Pet sitters work every day, every weekend and every holiday unless they have employees/IC’s to cover for them or they work very part time.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, but pet sitters can definitely schedule weekends off whenever they want, especially if they are also walking regular clients during the week. They don’t have to work every single weekend. Just trying to let new pet sitters know they don’t have to work every single day of the year.

      1. How do you figure that? As a dog walker your schedule could certainly be very flexible, but pet sitting requires you to visit every single day, from 1-3 times per day, until your client comes home. You will have several clients at a time (I typically have 8-10 at a time), so that pretty much makes a day entirely off very unusual. Aside from the week of vacation I took this year (which I arranged with my clients two months in advance) I have had two days off. Literally. It all depends on if you’re seeing dogs whose owners are home on the weekend, or cats and other animals whose owners are on vacations or business trips.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I just plan which weekends I want off ahead of time and stick to it. I typically work every other weekend currently. I turn away some requests so I can have time off. I wasn’t able to do that originally when I had fewer clients.

  4. I was hired by a pet sitting company as extra help for the holidays last year, and considering that I’d just moved across company and needed a job, it was the perfect opportunity for an animal lover like me. Now almost a year later, it has remained a full time job with 8-12 clients a day.

    This Christmas I want to go home and spend a week with my family. I’ve seen them a total of 4 days over the past year and two months and I live on the other side of the country with no family. I missed Thanksgiving and Christmas last year because I was working. This year I’m determined to go home for Christmas because I’m missing my family terribly and can’t stand the thought of spending the holidays by myself again. My fear is that the company I work for will consider me no longer a team player because they mentioned to us during the hiring process that they work though the holidays and then go home after the new year. I feel guilty for telling them that I won’t work during Christmas, but I am an independent contractor and not an employee. I get to set my own schedule. Hope they understand because family is important to me.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I bet if you explain the situation and maybe volunteer to work over Thanksgiving, it will be OK. I’m sure you are a great employee and they won’t want to lose you.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I have been seriously considering taking my pet sitting business full time and have been reading up on stuff today with a lot of negatives but this has reassured me that I can manage if I am sick one day.

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